Sticklers for grammar are a dying breed. But, being the son of an English professor, I’ve been raised in such a way that I shudder when I hear words like “orientate” or “irregardless.” I correct people when they use an adjective instead of an adverb; I properly cite sources in MLA format; I use semicolons(!).
I’m not sure if Lynne Truss becomes agitated at the mangling of words, but it’s clear from the introduction of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (a play on the punctuation joke about a Panda in a restaurant) that pluralizing words with an apostrophe and an S drives her positively up the wall. In this, she cries out to like-minded people (like me) in this witty, informative book.
Like anything of Bill Bryson’s, this book is first and foremost educational, but told related in such a humorous and anecdotal way that one almost forgets that s/he is learning. Did you know, for instance, that it was a 16th-century monk that first used a semicolon? Did you know that, as evidenced in the preceding sentence, the rule for hyphenating two words is that since both “16th” and “century” modify “monk,” they are hyphenated. Had I written “a monk from the 16th century,” it would have been different. Don’t even get me started on semicolons.
The first part of the book (namely the introduction and the large chapters on the apostrophe and the comma) is somewhat polemic, since these punctuation marks’ (possessive apostrophe comes after the S) misuse is epidemic in the author’s native Britain and across the Atlantic. Later chapters on full stops (or periods), brackets, colons, inverted commas (or quotation marks), question marks, dashes, and exclamation marks tend to be more prosaic and laudatory.
Even if you dislike this book (which you might: authors like Truss and Bryson are not for everyone), it’s a relatively short read at 204 pages (not included the bibliography), so I would suggest reading it, if not for enjoyment then certainly for the knowledge.